Harper College has expanded its manufacturing program to meet the needs of a 21st century workforce.
Much of the growth is the result of the U.S. Department of Labor's investment in education.
In 2012, the college received a $12.9 million federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant to establish a statewide network of 21 community colleges and create a curriculum leading to stackable, portable certificates in advanced manufacturing.
"The vision of the Illinois Network for Advanced Manufacturing was to raise the awareness of manufacturing careers and create common learning objectives for our students," said Mary Beth Ottinger, dean of Career and Technical Education.
"Although the grant has ended, the legacy lives on."
The growth of Harper's program has led to additional opportunities for students, including precision machining. The college now has five CNC machines (the newest with five axis capabilities), seven trainers, two robots, a coordinate measuring machine and a tool pre-setter.
Harper also added four new courses including two programming classes -- CAD and CAM -- along with Quality Assurance and Dimensional Metrology.
Ottinger credits Advanced Manufacturing Technology Program Coordinator Kurt Billsten for his commitment to building and sustaining relationships with industry partners.
"Harper's welding program has received significant support from the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association (FMA)," Ottinger said. "This includes $500,000 over five years, and their members have provided state-of-the-art equipment including a laser cutter, press break and robotic welder."
Additional manufacturing-related advancements at Harper include:
• LINCS Supply Chain Grant: Harper is among 12 universities and community colleges nationwide participating in a second TAACCCT grant known as LINCS (Leveraging, Integrating, Networking and Coordinating Supplies). A common curriculum was developed and exams were created for eight entry-level positions. More than 3,000 credentials have been awarded throughout the consortium in less than a year.
• Apprenticeships on Demand: Led by Dr. Rebecca Lake, Harper's dean of Workforce and Economic Development, the program provides opportunities for students to be employed during their program of study and "earn while they learn." The first cohort of Industrial Maintenance Mechanic apprentices started in August 2015.
• Dual Credit: Harper faculty and high school teachers collaborated to develop labs in five area high schools where students earn Harper College credit to prepare them for entry-level positions in manufacturing with industry recognized credentials. Nearly 500 high school students have earned college credit through the program during past three years. Some get jobs right out of high school, while many others continue their education at Harper.
• Internships: Numerous industry partners offer internships to students interested in exploring the field. Students can register for an internship credit course at the beginning of their studies.
• Job Placement and Support: Harper's Job Placement Resource Center (JPRC) provides services for students during school and after certificate or degree completion.
Students who want to further their education after receiving an Associate of Applied Science in Manufacturing degree can easily transfer to a university through one of Harper's articulation agreements with Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, Governors State and Illinois Institute of Technology, among others.
"We are delighted at the growth of our manufacturing programs, but even more pleased to see the outcomes we're helping achieve for our students, employers and other community partners," Ottinger said.
• For more information, visit harpercollege.edu and search "manufacturing" or call Admissions Outreach at (847) 925-6700.